Attacks in Ouagadougou: What is (probably) AQIM doing in Burkina Faso?

It’s still unconfirmed but it seems that AQIM or related groups could be responsible for attacks in Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou. E. g. there is a French military presence in Burkina, but from your point of view why would AQIM ar other jihadi group be interested in carrying out such attack? Read few comments.

Jonathan HillReader in Postcolonialism and the Maghreb, Defence Studies Department, King’s College London

I think that such attacks are motivated by at least three considerations. First, they enable AQIM to confirm its existence and ongoing capacity to carry out attacks. Second, such targets are perhaps a little softer than than those in Europe, North America and elsewhere. That is, they are more easily accessible to AQIM fighters and less defended by intelligence and security forces. And third, in places like Burkina Faso, as elsewhere in Africa, Western expats – diplomats, aid workers, business people etc – tend to concentrate in a limited number of places that are easily identifiable.

Magnus Norell, Adjunct Scholar , The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Senior Policy Advisor, European Foundation for Democracy (EFD)

For the past years, AQIM and other Islamist organizations (such as IS) have upped the ante in Maghreb and Sahel. In my view, it is no surprise that attacks are occurring in Burkina Faso as well. In a way, it’s a kind of ‘Islamist civil war’ now between AQIM and IS, and their respective allies. This mean that more attacks are likely to take place in the region, and not only in Mali, Nigeria and Niger. Militant islamism is on the rise and is likely to grow in the near future. Especially since weak states, large more or less law-less areas and a multitude of ethnic, political and social conflicts continue to plague countries in the region.

Susanna Wing, Associate Professor of Political Science, Haverford College

AQMI and other groups have made it clear that they are interested in French and UN targets. Burkina continues to play a role in the Mali crisis. They helped broker the Ouagadougou Accords and today they host French military personnel who are fighting terrorism in the region as part of Operation Barkhane. This hotel was known to host a large international clientele. A strike like this is guaranteed to gain publicity which is just what AQMI wants.

Dario CristianiAdjunct Professor, Vesalius College, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)

If it is confirmed that AQIM is responsible for this, I would read this attack as

1) an attempt by AQIM to respond to the growing protagonism of IS (for instance, in Libya) by carrying out high-impact attacks against major targets in African countries

2) confirmation of the operational trend of targeting hotels where Westerns stay. Since Western tourism in the Sahara regions has declined following kidnappings and attacks over the past years, AQIM has found itself in an area with a rising greater scarcity of “business opportunities” (because, to them, Western tourists were seen as business opportunities for kidnappings and ransoms). As such, targeting popular hotels in the capital cities of Sahelian/Western African countries makes sense from a strategic/operational point of view. First, it targets Westerns (one of the ontological enemies of these groups, so this is consistent with their formal aims). At the same time, it has an impact on the economies of the countries targeted, by reducing the inflows of foreigners coming to visit these countries, at least in the short-term.


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